The global crisis has pushed trade reforms off—or at least to the edge of—the political radar screen. But shying away from improving the trade system may actually jeopardize growth and jobs, and in these tough economic times that seems a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face. The Fund may not be the main player on the trade ‘block’, but we certainly take an interest given its macroeconomic importance. And, in the spirit of moving forward the discussion, and indeed the policies in support of, trade integration, the Fund has three main lines of work in the pipeline.
Much of the debate over global rebalancing has focused on the U.S.-China trade imbalance. But that’s missing the bigger picture. With the growth of cross-border supply chains—a signature feature of Asia’s trade in recent decades—it would be misleading to focus on bilateral imbalances and exchange rates. Instead of specializing in producing certain types of final goods, Asian exporters increasingly have specialized in certain stages of production and become vertically integrated with each other. So, as Asia’s economies strive to rebalance their growth models, we need to understand better how the regional supply chain affects the way exchange rates and shifts in global demand work.